Leaning on the Everlasting Arms (2004) – Iris DeMent

I first heard this entrancing song at the end credits of the Coen Brothers film True Grit. The True Grit soundtrack is magnificent and other compositions from the film will feature here.
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms was released on DeMent’s 4th album Lifeline; her first album in 8 years. It contains many traditional Protestant gospel songs DeMent describes as finding comfort in playing and singing.

In her liner notes, DeMent recounts how her mother sang these songs in times of stress looking straight at the sky, “as if she were talking to someone.” Her mother’s singing voice was an inspiration and great influence.

[Verse 1]
What a fellowship, what a joy divine
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine
Leaning on the everlasting arms

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms

[Verse 2]
Oh how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
Oh how bright the path grows from day to day
Leaning on the everlasting arms

This is the second song to feature here from Iris DeMent after Easy’s Gettin’ Harder Every Day. I remarked how her sound reminds me in texture and voice of Australia’s country artist Kasey Chambers.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms is a hymn published in 1887 with music by Anthony J. Showalter and lyrics by Showalter and Elisha Hoffman. Showalter said that he received letters from two of his former pupils saying that their wives had died. When writing letters of consolation, Showalter was inspired by the phrase in the Book of Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms“.

The Carter Family performed the hymn during their time on Mexican Radio Stations in the late 1930s and early 1940s. One version can be found on YouTube and it’s well worth a listen.

1. Iris DeMent – Wikipedia
2. Leaning on Everlasting Arms – Wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Music

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